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The Bike Guy Walks!

Jesse Peers (white man) stands in front of Reconnect Rochester door at the Hungerford Building.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

One of the things I love about Rochester is its size. Joseph Floreano said it well: “New York City was too big. Binghamton was too small. Rochester was just right.” Partly because of Rochester’s size, and partly because I’m very intentional about it, I have quite a small radius, or orbit, in everyday life. I rarely have to bike outside the space below. My workplace is 1.4 miles away. The stellar Public Market and Wegmans are less than 2 miles away. We’re 3 miles from our church and from downtown. This makes bicycling-as-transportation and being a one-car household quite easy.

Walk Score’s Time Travel Map shows how far out in every direction you
can bike in a given amount of time, in this case 20 minutes.

Now that I’m over 40 and I have some cardiac history in the family to guard against, I give increasing thought to my health. I changed my diet and lost almost 60 pounds in 2021. Now that I have an Apple Watch, I’m conscious of my exercise and how many calories I burn each day from being active. (The watch’s Move ring is pretty neat: “Closing” it comes in part from exercise, yes, but mostly from other activities such as going up and down stairs, folding laundry, taking the dog out, and in my case sometimes: by playing the drums!)

An Apple Watch showing Fitness Rings

As convenient as my 1.4-mile commute is (I wouldn’t trade it for the world!), it’s only 7 minutes by bike each way at a moderate, easy pace. So I barely burn any calories and won’t close my Exercise and Move rings with 14 minutes of biking alone. Something else is required. For years I had a treadmill in the basement, and in 2021, I actually started using it – jogging most days for 30 minutes or so before dinner as I caught up on podcasts. If I attended or led a group bike ride on a particular evening, I could skip the treadmill, knowing I’d close my Move rings twice from my commutes, biking to the group ride, doing the ride itself, and biking home afterwards. As you can imagine, the treadmill in the Winter especially came in handy.

But this October, my old treadmill broke! So I started an experiment: walking to work rather than biking. I like it so much that I might continue it this Winter! Here’s why: If I previously had two 7-minutes-each-way bike commutes + 30 minutes of treadmill time, and walking to work is 22 minutes, my schedule really doesn’t change at all: that’s still 45 minutes a day of activity, no treadmill needed. I still have the same amount of time to devote to other stuff.

What was most interesting to me was how much more calories I burn from a 22-minute walk commute, compared with my 7-minute bike commute. Obviously it varies based on intensity and time of the year, but that 7-minute bike commute really only burns me 35 calories, if Strava can be trusted. That same commute by walking burns me about 145 calories. So the exercise ring closes everyday and as long as I do everyday stuff like laundry and take the dog for a walk, the Move ring closes as well.

I love winter bicycling. It’s easier and more fun than most people realize. But without a doubt, the worst part of biking in the winter is what the road salt can do to your bike. Keeping the corrosion at bay is a pain! If I walk to work this winter much of the time rather than biking, I lose no time, close my rings, alleviate the need for a treadmill, and save my bikes from that brutal road salt, therefore saving money on tune-ups.

Another perk of walking everyday: The cats of Beechwood! I could seriously start a #CatsofBeechwood montage of all the adorable cats I see wandering about. Sometimes they’ll show interest in me and let me pet them.

A photo of a community cat in the Beechwood neighborhood

I’ve been car-free for 9.5 years now. My first few years of that lifestyle were composed of biking for virtually every trip. As I get older, I appreciate being able to rely on transit and walking some of the time. If you’re intrigued by the health benefits tied to walking, biking and ordinary activity, I highly recommend Peter Walker’s The Miracle Pill. It’s a stellar followup to his first book, How Cycling Can Save The World. Also check out this recent clip from NPR’s Up First, examining how important it is to get up and walk around every hour if you have a desk job.

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A Journey Through My Multi-Modal Week in Rochester

By Jahasia Esgdaille, Community Engagement Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Author’s note: “Happy New Year! In Fall 2022, I decided to log what a multi-modal week looks like for me and, not so surprisingly, I rely A LOT less on my car than I thought. What does a multi-modal week look like for you?– Jahasia


Throughout the week I try to leave my car at home as much as possible and use other options of getting around the Flower City, so this was quite a fun experiment to see that I actually rely much less on my car than I thought and really only use it for running errands or to get outside of the city. 

I will say that I am privileged to have options to be multi-modal throughout the week. I live in the city on two major bus lines (cheers to the #41 and the #9) so I am very lucky to have these options available to me. But, I do realize that this is something that needs to be improved in our city. In my opinion, everyone should have the option to have a multi-modal week, whether you decide to take the bus, bike or walk to your destination.

Monday

Walk to work (13 mins)

I got very lucky that my commute to work is only a 13 minute walk each way. As long as I have the energy to climb the steep hill that is the Circle Street bridge, I hoof it to work!

Biked to CVS on Park Avenue (7 mins)

I avoid driving anywhere on Park Avenue like the plague. It’s not convenient for driving or parking…which is good. This is what a people-first street design should be like. So, when I need to run to the pharmacy, I ride my bike, and thankfully there’s a bike rack right outside of CVS where I can safely lock my bike. It happened to be a little rainy this day and I completely forgot that my bike doesn’t have fenders, so enjoy the photo of glorious mud splatter on my bag.

Tuesday

Walk to work (13 mins)

Biked to Abundance Co-op to pick up a compost bin for the office (13 mins)

At Reconnect Rochester, we champion transportation choices that have a positive impact on the environment. We encourage people to swap car trips for other modes of transportation whether you decide to take the bus, bike or walk. So, it only made sense for us to continue our sustainability efforts and start composting at the office so that our food scraps and other biodegradable materials don’t make their way into Monroe County Landfills!

Took the 8 bus to Drive2bBetter conference (20 mins)

The Reconnect Rochester staff took a multi-modal trip to the Drive2bBetter Conference. James and I took the 8 and walked 13 minutes the rest of the way. Mary, Monika and Jesse rode their bikes to meet us there. 

We were so excited to see that the Drive2bBetter campaign was relaunched thanks to the hard work of the coalition group led by HealthiKids. To show your support for the campaign, you can request a free lawn sign here!

Wednesday

Walked to work (13 mins)

Biked to Full Moon Vista to grab bike lights (10 mins)

It’s getting darker earlier in the day so my husband and I rode our bikes to Full Moon Vista to grab a snazzy set of lights to see and be seen when biking at night.

Bike to Cobbs Hill Park to swap out my compost bin with Roc City Compost (7 mins)

I am sadly starting to clear out my balcony garden for the season, so I chucked dead plant material in my Roc City Compost bin, sat it in my milk crate and biked to Cobbs Hill to meet the friendly faces at Roc City Compost.

Biked to Price Rite to some groceries for dinner (10 mins)

Once again, I am very lucky to have grocery stores close enough to bike, walk or take the bus to. I decided to bike a straight line down to Price Rite and grab a few groceries for dinner. We decided to make shrimp alfredo that night, yum!

Thursday

Drove to an appointment with my husband in Gates (13 mins)

This was where I broke my streak and drove with my husband to an appointment in Gates. We were tight on time and decided to drive 13 mins from home to the doctor’s office. We thought about taking the bus but that would’ve been 2 hours and 10 mins round trip and after getting off of the bus, we would have to traverse the 6-lane road onto a street with minimal sidewalks, so it was more convenient to drive.

Friday

Drove over to Wegmans to pick up groceries (5 mins)

Something I’ve been considering when I decide to drive over to Wegmans is to carpool with a few friends to make the drive more sustainable and inevitably make the East Avenue Wegmans parking lot less congested. If you know, you know!

Biking along the Erie Canal Trail (1 hour)

Back when we had warm and sunny Fall days, my husband and I biked part of the Erie Canal Trail and stopped at the Genesee River in Corn Hill to enjoy the sun and the view. 

Writing this blog, I was hesitant to admit the times in my week where I do jump in my car to run errands or to get to an appointment. But I wanted to be honest about what a multi-modal week looks like in a city that is still very much car-centric. As much as I hate to list that I drove to an appointment, the reality is that a 13-minute drive is a lot more convenient than a 1 hr 8-minute bus ride, and this is just one example among many people in Rochester who experience the same thing. On the other hand, this made me realize that there are so many things you can do around Rochester using alternative modes of transportation, especially by bike within a 20 minute ride!

Happy busing, biking and walking!

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Top ten things we’re most proud of in 2022

At Reconnect Rochester, 2022 brought renewed hope and activity as the world opened up and we could get back to what we love doing best — getting together and working alongside people and organizations in the community who share our passion for improved mobility.

This has also been a year of dramatic organizational growth that’s allowed us to do even more to pursue our hopes and dreams for mobility in Monroe County. Check out below the Top 10 things we’re most proud of accomplishing in 2022. The list gets more action-packed each year!


TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2022
(In no particular order of importance.)

#10

Inspired People to Get Multi-Modal

At Reconnect Rochester, we want to inspire and empower people to use various modes of transportation and discover the joy and freedom of getting around by bus, by rail, on bike or on foot. Our Car-Lite ROC blog series featured the voices and stories of folks around the community who are living a car-lite lifestyle in Rochester and loving it! Catch up on the blog series here and listen to the podcast of some of our guest bloggers on Connections with Evan Dawson.

#9

Expanded Bus Amenities

Bus Stop Cube Ribbon Cutting; group of people smile as they get ready to cut a white ribbon that's in front of a red bus stop cube

In August, we held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of 23 more bus stop cubes on Portland, Hudson, Lake, Dewey & St. Paul. Seating at bus stops not only supports the basic needs of people who rely on RTS bus service, it also encourages more people to use public transit by improving the experience. Special thanks to the City of Rochester for being a valued partner on this project, and State Senator Samra Brouk for securing funding to support this round of bus stop cubes.

#8

Transformed an Intersection

Kids and adults paint the road with large paint rollers

We continued our effort to make Rochester streets safer for all with a Complete Street Makeover of the intersection of Orange Street and Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood.  In collaboration with many neighborhood and community partners, we implemented temporary street design changes to make the intersection safer for those who use it every day. As a result of our installation, the average speed decreased 20%, the 85th percentile speed declined 28%, and the maximum speed declined 26%.

#7

Used the Power of Film to Educate and Inspire

4 panelists sit in director chairs on a theatre stage; 1 moderator stands at a podium

This year, we produced two Rochester Street Films events at The Little Theatre. In June, we partnered with the Climate Solutions Accelerator to showcase the feature-length documentary Life on Wheels, followed by a discussion about the mindset & policy shifts needed to create a more multimodal community. In October, we brought a set of curated film clips to the screen to explore Why We Bike, and had a panel discussion and Q&A about the rewards for us personally and as a society when more people ride bikes.

#6

Expanded Our Advocacy Efforts

7 people on a Zoom grid

In January, we welcomed James Dietz in the newly created Advocacy Manager position to bolster our volunteer-based advocacy work with staff-based efforts. Our advocacy efforts this year included a virtual trip to Albany to fight for safe streets legislation & public transit funding, supporting the expansion and accessibility of mobility options like HOPR bike & e-scooter share and the launch of Floshare electric car share, and more on-the-ground action like mobilizing a team of staff and volunteers to shovel out bus stop cubes.

#5

Stepped up Communications and Outreach Efforts

Staff member Jahasia stands and smiles behind a Reconnect information table

In August, Jahasia Esgdaille joined our team in another newly created position of Community Engagement Manager. This investment in staff capacity has allowed us to step up our engagement in the community with things like increasing our in-person presence via event tabling, conducting an RTS rider survey, introducing quarterly Engagement Breakfasts, and expanding our social media presence (you can now find us on Instagram!).

#4

Strengthened Partnerships

Indoor Press Conference with County Executive Adam Bello for Drive 2B Better campaign

This year, we made a concerted effort to strengthen our relationships with key entities in the transportation sector and organizations that share our passion for better public transit and safe streets. We’ve established regular meetings with RTSGTC, the City of Rochester and Monroe County, and work with countless other elected officials and organizations in the course of our day-to-day work. It was collaborative conversations that led to Monroe County’s decision to fund the relaunch of the public awareness campaign Drive 2B Better, developed by a coalition group led by HealthiKids that aims to increase safety for all road users. You can request a D2BB lawn sign for your yard here!

#3

Gave & Encouraged Public Input

Monroe County Active Transportation Plan Logo

Thanks to the work of our Advocacy Committee, Reconnect submitted input on every major street project and community plan in Monroe County, beating the drum to incorporate complete streets policies and a more multimodal community. We gave special attention to providing robust input into the City and County Active Transportation Plans, attended countless public meetings, and served on project advisory committees for Aqueduct Reimagined and the Zoning Alignment Project.

#2

Expanded Cycling Resources & Activities

Group bike ride photo; "we are the change that we seek" mural.

We continued to exponentially expand cycling-focused programs, advocacy, education & outreach, including the creation of a one-stop Community Cycling Calendar and the RocEasy Bike map of recommended low-stress bike routes around Rochester. Plus, we pulled off our first annual ROC ‘n Roll community ride, continued our Flower City Feeling Good bike rides in collaboration with the City of Rochester and Exercise Express, rolled out Local History Bike Tours, and hosted a 2-day workshop by the League of American Bicyclists for local transportation planner’s and advocates. We’re especially proud of our first annual Mind the Gap campaign which asked cyclists where critical bike connections were missing in Monroe County’s bike network.

Check out the CYCLING TOP 10 LIST for even more about bike-related efforts led by our rock star Cycling Manager, Jesse Peers.

#1

Leveled Up Our Staff & Welcomed New Board Leadership

If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know there were a few areas where we mentioned increased staff capacity. In 2022, we were able to hire two full-time employees and increase the hours of our part-time employees. More human power means more impact, and we are loving all the new and expanded ways we’ve been able to tackle our mission. This growth was made possible in great part by the continued support of Dr. Scott MacRae and a generous grant from the ESL Charitable Foundation’s Building Strong Neighborhoods initiative.

We also brought on three new board members – Bree-Ana Dukes, Bo Shoemaker & Erick Stephens – who have each used their experience and talent to energize our efforts.

Just imagine what we can do in 2023!

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Utica’s Genesee Street Transformation

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

For 6 years, I’ve been dreaming of the day when Genesee street in downtown Utica, NY might be reduced from four lanes to two with a turning lane and bike lanes. To be perfectly frank, this was a reality I feared would never materialize. Despite the fact that countless cities and towns across the country have successfully executed a “road diet,” thus making a street safer for pedestrians, cyclists AND drivers with zero-to-minimal impact on travel time, so many Uticans had abrasively rejected my vision every time I brought it up.

Thanks to the vision of Utica Common Council member Katie Aiello, that formally unrealized hope for Utica’s historic Genesee Street was re-striped a little over a month ago with two travel lanes, a left-hand turning lane and bike lanes, just like I’ve imagined so many times.

This was done as part of a 90-day trial period to assess the impact of the project. But as is typical when a city is introduced to the concept of Complete Streets and road diets for the first time, many people responded with a flurry of dissent.

Hot tip… if you ever want to sit back and watch a relentless flow of verbal bile and fire-scorched sense of logic, suggest a road diet in a downtown to a city and metro population for the first time. Just grab a substantial bag of buttery, salted popcorn and watch the horror unfold.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time assuring the people of Utica that projects like this make our streets safer for everyone, as well as helping to elicit private investment and provide greater accessibility of community resources for the population. A big part of this assurance is telling people that if this kind of project worked on the Main Street of my home city of Rochester with a population of over 200,000 people, it will work for a city with a population of just over 60,000 people. Genesee Street in Utica and Rochester’s Main Street downtown each have similar daily traffic counts (approximately 9,000 vehicles per day, well below the 15,000-20,000 that begin the four lane road conversation).

But, as usual with these sorts of projects, my fact-backed urgings and invitations to references and resources in support of road diets were often met with a “no thanks,” as many community leaders choose their own opinions over actual data that has been repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times. My favorite comments from leading members of a prestigious local organization implied that bike lanes and greater walkability would make the area more accessible for “crack dealers.”

The irony of the above social media take is that the opposite is far more often true… that walkability, traffic calming, and bike access complement and enhance small business and local arts culture.

What it all boils down to is this… many residents still have an insulated “out my front door” view that their city or community is unique. And while to some extent this is true, for the most part, Rust Belt (or as I like to call them, Robust Belt) cities are all dealing with, and recovering from, the same barriers. And again, as much as we struggle to admit the solutions of de-prioritizing the automobile, creating small business-friendly environments, solving issues of equity and access and laying the fertile soil for human-centered economic growth are the broad but key lenses of change for all communities, it’s the proven truth. Despite the aforementioned opposition by many of Utica’s community leaders, the road diet that has taken place on Genesee Street is a small but significant puzzle piece with regard to the solution.

Maybe you’re still not comfortable thinking that your city isn’t as unique as you think it is. OK, I’ll concede that for a moment… but what I will not waiver on is that, as soon as we Americans get in our cars, we act more predictably than ever.

We all make subjective statements like “Massachusetts drivers are the worst,” or “Indiana drivers always pass on the right.” The truth is, people don’t drive differently because they’re from a different locale. Real world data shows that there are scores of given principles that determine the behavior of drivers. If the roads are wide, people will drive faster. If there are no vertical points of reference (trees for example) people will drive faster. If there is parallel parking, people will drive slower. If the lane is 9 feet wide instead of 11 feet wide, people will drive slower. And why is automobile speed so important when blended with walkability? Because of the shocking data from the National Traffic Safety Board…

A pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 miles per hour is nearly twice as likely to be killed than if the car was traveling 30 miles per hour. Building infrastructure that reduces speeds, even by a few miles per hour, has the potential to save lives. But in order to do this, we must accept that traffic in our community doesn’t behave differently than traffic in other locales. We must accept that the drivers in Utica behave the same way as they do anywhere else… it’s the infrastructure that determines how safely or unsafely people pilot their vehicles.

This is typically where people will stand up and point out that cyclists and pedestrians break the law as well. My answer is always the same… sure, just like drivers, those who walk, bike and scooter break the law… the difference is that they are not piloting a 3,000-6,000 pound vehicle capable of 100mph that doesn’t just threaten their own life, it threatens the life of other people and property as well. Car crashes are the close #2 killer of children and teens, after gun violence. The NHTSA states that car crashes in the United States cost nearly a trillion dollars annually. And much of this burden is directly shouldered by the taxpayer. Why, then, would anyone rally against a mobility strategy that had the potential to save lives, lessen the chance of personal injury AND save taxpayer money?

The answer is entitlement that is always thoroughly-veiled in the word “freedom.” Drivers often view projects like this as yet another assault on their personal freedom. The irony, of course, is that transportation infrastructure that prioritizes the most expensive modality (automobiles) means that one doesn’t have a choice in how to access jobs and resources in their community. Because driving is subsidized so heavily in the US, there is no equitable alternative that is feasible or practical. Because of far higher gas taxes, gasoline in Europe costs twice as much… but the average American spends four times as much on transportation as the average European. This has led to the antithesis of transportation freedom for the American, replacing it with a blatant “pay-to-play” scenario. You must own a car to have the opportunity to succeed.

No, simply re-striping Utica’s Genesee Street won’t, on its own, invigorate a pedestrian and bike-friendly culture in the city’s downtown. No, it won’t single-handedly increase sales at local stores, restaurants, museums and theaters. It should be seen, instead, as a social and economic fulcrum, or a sort of fertilized soil that can help grow the seeds of prosperity for Utica’s future. It’s a small step, but one that so many cities have taken toward a more socially and economically prosperous community.

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Winter Cycling

Jesse Peers (white man) stands in front of Reconnect Rochester door at the Hungerford Building.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Before we get too far, we have to put a plug in for one of our upcoming events: a free Winter Cycling Class on Saturday, December 10! Join us at 11am in the CDCR’s Gallery (1115 E Main Street, Door 3B) to learn more about biking in the snowy season (hot cocoa provided).

____________________

Transportation parity in Rochester, New York can’t ignore winter. It’s not good enough or equitable to have a multitude of transportation options in the spring, summer and fall, and to have to resort to driving a car of your own in the winter. That’s why Reconnect Rochester has been championing better plowing of sidewalks and the clearing of bus stops so transit users don’t have to wait in the street for a bus.

Convincing people to bike in the winter is admittedly a harder sell. At first glance, who wants to bike in the cold? And especially when there’s snow?! I’d concede to you… EXCEPT, city after city after city after city after city shows that normal folks will bike in the winter, especially if dedicated bike space is kept clear. Let’s go over some facts and misnomers. Even if you choose to never bike in winter, at least you’ll realize why some choose to.

1. Winter biking doesn’t have to be an extreme sport! In fact, it used to be pretty normal. NBD (no big deal). 

Browse old bike periodicals and you’ll come to the same conclusion. Granted, once we entered the Eisenhower and Robert Moses era, winter biking became less common but that was due to the surge of automobiles dominating the roads, not the existence of winter itself.

Winter cycling in action; Road to Perdition
The opening scene of Sam Mendes’ film Road to Perdition gives us a glimpse of how ordinary and nonchalant biking in the winter used to be.

2. There’s no difference between a 10-minute walk in the cold and a 10-minute bike ride in the same elements.

Lots of people take a regular walk outside in the winter. Perhaps they’re a dog owner taking their pet out on their “daily constitutional.” Or someone taking a walk in their neighborhood or further afield to enjoy nature. Those aren’t “extreme.” Neither is biking in the cold for a finite amount of time. In fact, biking in the cold tends to be more comfortable than walking because:

3. Biking makes the temperature feel about 15° warmer.

Because of the moderate “work” you’re doing turning those pedals, your body warms up. You can literally make three months of 30° feel like three months of 45°! That’s why cyclists and joggers wear less layers than they would otherwise when the temperatures drop. This outdoor exertion warming your body up makes winter more bearable for many. Necessary side notes:

  • Body-temp-wise, biking is more comfortable than waiting at a bus stop.
  • That “+15° thing” is why summer can sometimes be the least comfortable time to ride.
  • Give it 5 minutes; the first 5 minutes are the most uncomfortable before you get into a rhythm.
  • Layering is key: You want to be cool when you bike at all times – not cold, not warm, certainly not hot. Sweat is your enemy when biking in the winter.

4. As snowy as Rochester is, most winter days are cold temps and clear streets.

If someone chose to leave their bike at home on days when arterials have snow on them and biked only when those primary roads were clear, they’d be biking the majority of winter. Increasingly, I’ve found that we tend to get most of our snow during a handful of big events each year. The rest is pretty manageable. My experience is that altogether there are maybe 5-7 workdays a year when biking is completely inadvisable because the roads are flat-out unsafe. Not too bad for one of the world’s snowiest cities! Working from home in those instances is not an option for everybody, but it’s more common than it used to be. Of course there are times when an alternate mode, such as bus or taxi, might be the way to go.

5. Biking in the winter isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.

Extending one’s biking season happens by degrees. All cyclists start as fair weather cyclists, and that’s okay! When folks want to bike more, they first acclimate to riding at night or in the rain. Then they might extend their season to riding in the 50s. Then the 40s. The next step is 30s with clear streets. Then 20s with clear streets. Last of all is biking when there’s snow on the ground or when temps are super frigid. If you never get to those later phases, no worries! But it is possible due to studded tires, one of the best investments a Rochester cyclist can make.

Winter biking accessory: studded bike tires

6. The City of Rochester knows it needs to make progress in terms of clearing bike infrastructure in the winter.

It’s a challenge to do so, but the Rochester 2034 Comprehensive Plan acknowledges strides must be taken. After all, Buffalo’s Department of Public Works clears their bike lanes and shoulders.

For starters here, Reconnect Rochester has advocated for the Genesee Riverway Trail be cleared from downtown to the University of Rochester. Since the squeaky wheel gets the grease, let your councilmembers know that clearing of some bike infrastructure in the winter should be prioritized.

Winter Maintenance excerpt from Rochester 2034 Comprehensive Plan: "While it may not be reasonable to expect complete winter maintenance of all bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the near future, strides must be taken to work in that direction"

In Sum…

If you don’t want to bike in Winter, you don’t have to! But it’s probably easier and more feasible than you think. Those who choose to bike in Winter, taking advantage of Rochester’s average 4.1-mile commute, deserve better accommodations and to be passed safely and courteously as the law requires.

Average Commute Distance graphic for Rochester, NY. Average is 4.1 miles. Highlighted portion: "commute travel makes up only one-sixth of daily trips in the region. Other trips are typically shorter"

Want to Know More?

If you’re interested in learning more, come to our free Winter Cycling Class on Saturday, December 10 at 11am in the Community Design Center’s gallery space (1115 E Main Street, Door 3B). It’s chock full of practical tips to get you started.

If you want to learn more on your own, these two books are highly recommended:

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Car Lite Rochester: From Car-Free to Car-Lite, Three Years Later

car lite logo

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out the t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: From Car-Free to Car-Lite, Three Years Later

By: Calvin Eaton

Calvin Eaton is a disabled scholar, author, cultural curator, content creator, and social entrepreneur. He founded the theglutenfreechef brand and website in 2013 and founded 540WMain, Inc. in 2016.

Calvin Eaton
Photo Credit: Adam Eaton

Whew! It’s been a long time since I last checked in! Can you believe it’s been three years since my last blog with Reconnect Rochester? And what a time we’ve had in three years. We’ve survived an incessant global pandemic and  I’ve survived two bouts of COVID-19, vaccinations, boosters, masks, and so much more. With so much change you would think we would be closer to realizing neighborhoods and streets that are more universally designed, pedestrian friendly, and less reliant on the all-powerful automobile. This is hardly the case. So much has changed yet when it comes to a culture that is less reliant on cars so much has remained the same. Still it’s not all doom and gloom. There’ve been lots of positive changes in the realm of more bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure in recent years. Before I dive into that let me update you on what’s been happening with me.

New Bike, New Me

I got a new bike in 2021. Actually, a very kind friend gifted me a brand new bike. It was a complete surprise and I am forever grateful. After what seems like decades of lamenting about how I needed to get a bike, I just wasn’t making it a priority. One day in early summer 2021 I reached out to my Facebook community to ask if anyone had recommendations for a decent used bike and next thing I knew I received a brand new bike on my doorstep. What a thoughtful and amazing gift. I was able to test out my new bike just in time for the 2021 edition of the Juneteenth Roc Freedom Ride through Rochester. Tapping into the robust bike community and the dedicated bike trails has been key for me since I still don’t always feel comfortable riding my bike solo on the city streets. Even though fibromyalgia prevents me from cycling as much as I would like, having my new wheels has been amazing.

Calvin with a friend at a community bike ride

Rochester’s affinity based cycling communities have grown throughout the pandemic. These communities are important to me because they break down the stereotypes and bias that Black people don’t bike or can’t bike. Amazing transformative leaders like Rashad Smith and the Roc Freedom Ride initiative are a beautiful homage to the bus desegregation movement of the 1960s and parallel the modern day desegregation of “cycling culture” in Rochester and other cities around the country. Cycling culture in Rochester like most cities looks very homogenous (i.e white) and groups like Roc Freedom Riders, Black Girls Do Bike, Conkey Cruisers, and the Flower City Feeling Good bike rides are some of the initiatives that have grown over the past few years that diversify and bring equity and inclusion to cycling culture in Rochester. This work is priceless. Despite this progress, bike legislation and biased enforcement has led to over policing, racial profiling and pretext stops for Black and brown cyclists. Group bike rides provide a measure of support and safety for those of us that are new to cycling as a regular form of transportation.

Car-Free to Car-Lite

In my last blog I shared my journey to a car-free lifestyle and three years later I’ve migrated from car-free to car-lite. The short story version is that during the pandemic my brother purchased a used car from Geva’s fleet of cars for performers and then gifted the car to me. It all happened very quickly but I do remember needing a week or two to think about the implications of bringing a car back into my life. This was at the top of 2021 and at the time I was teaching as an adjunct at St. John Fisher University and we were migrating back to in-person learning. After three years of being car-free, having access to my own vehicle again didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Reimagine RTS

My final decision came down to convenience. Even with the many improvements to bicycle infrastructure, and the reimagine RTS initiative I would be being disingenuous if I didn’t admit that having a car is simply more convenient in our city. Owning and maintaining a car is a privilege, this I must admit. Getting reacclimated to car life and taking care of the administrative details like registration, insurance, and transferring the title was relatively easy for me to do and I recognize this immense privilege. As someone living with a disability my lifestyle lends itself to far less driving than the average car owner. Due to the disability that I live with, each month my car sits idle in the driveway for multiple consecutive days. More often than not, I don’t have the stamina or energy to drive. The majority of my work happens online and I hold many meetings remotely via zoom. Even on my good days having a car for me isn’t essential. Understanding this privilege I recently was able to loan my car to a car-free friend who was taking a road trip for a couple of days.

Winter sidewalk in Rochester, NY

For me having a car during the cold winter months is most helpful. And I notice and advocate for improvements in how our streets and sidewalks are plowed during the winter months. Anyone that uses a wheelchair or power chair is figuratively and literally stuck when the snow starts to accumulate and this is simply unacceptable. There remains much work to be done in this regard.

Transportation Justice is an Ongoing Movement

Despite my return to life with a car, I remain an active and vocal advocate for safe streets, increased and improved bicycle infrastructure, and better accessibility for our roads, public transportation and the built environment for disabled people. My journey has taught me to have more compassion and empathy for everyone’s choice to own a car or not and to spend less time making moral judgements about people’s decisions and more time advocating for a city that includes all perspectives and voices. There have been lots of additions that allow more transportation choice in our City like the HOPR bike and scooter share, bike clubs, electric vehicle sharing, renovations to the RTS station, road diets, improvement along East and West Main streets, and the advocacy and education presented by Reconnect Rochester. Still we have so much work to do to reimagine and redesign our city to be more pedestrian safe and friendly.

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Car Lite Rochester: Small Decisions Become Core Values

car lite logo

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: Small Decisions Become Core Values

By: Tracey Austin

It’s interesting to think through why your life includes (or excludes) something that most other American families find normal. I would say my family’s car-lite life was born from necessity. We never really made a conscious decision on a particular day to be car-lite, yet it has become one of our values. And it has amazed me how such a seemingly small decision has shaped our life.

After college, my sister and I wanted nothing more than to get an apartment together in the City of Rochester. We shared our college car, and since my job was downtown and closer, I was the one who got to take the bus, ride my bike, and walk. I learned so much about Rochester during that time of my life because I used these multimodal ways of getting around. They weren’t an alternative for me; it was just what I had to do, like most people who don’t have access to a car.

After I got married, there was no question whether we would also live in the city near friends and our jobs. Proximity to work and “life things” has always been a natural priority for us. I love this city. I have spent the past 20+ years exploring some of its best short cuts. Back in the day, my favorite shortcuts were through the old midtown building and the enclosed path you could take from MCC to the other side of Main Street – glory days!

I love bike commuting, and the bus has helped in a pinch. But I prefer to walk most places. If I’m short on time, I bike. But walking is a form of therapy for me, especially before and after work in the winter. It’s always a peaceful way to start and end the day. And when I worked downtown it was always a good excuse to pick up coffee on the way into work without having to wait in a drive thru or park my car. I guess all of my life’s decisions usually come down to coffee access.

For these combined reasons, we have been able to get by with one car (even now with a teenage driver also sharing it!). My husband prefers the bus to biking or will walk sometimes when I need the car. And all of us are now very used to asking friends and co-workers for rides. I wish that was more normalized. I even have close neighbor friends who always anticipate my request for a ride if we are both invited to the same event. Most people don’t mind at all, especially if you help pay for gas or bring them something freshly baked. ☺

We manage, and we manage well. Although I sometimes agree with my youngest son’s wish that “we at least had a newer car,” I don’t frame it as a necessity and I never will. What started as an economic decision continues to be one: I could never stomach paying a car payment on a new car, let alone two. And paying for parking when the job or event is fairly close to my house seems silly. I am happy that my kids prioritize material things less, since the necessity of cars wasn’t modeled for them. And sometimes I make a point to say things like, if we had two cars to pay for we wouldn’t be able to go on this trip or pay this bill. As they get older, I hope they will prioritize adventure and healthy budgeting over something that ties them down.

I suppose my story isn’t going to be a huge revelation to most readers. But my car-lite life has revealed a lot to me—about myself and about my city. I choose to interact with it daily in a more tangible way by how I travel through it, and that in turn helps my bank account and our environment. That makes me happy. So as long I have physical mobility to travel the way I prefer, I will do just that. And I hope I can help some friends to try it along the way.

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Car Lite Rochester: Family Style

car lite logo

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: Family Style

By: Doug Kelley

Doug Kelly smiles in a helmet next to the Genesee River

It was early 2015 when my transportation lifestyle hit rock-bottom. Rochester’s winter had been especially cold and snowy that year. I was still bitter over the cancellation of the RTS route that had shuttled me, all through the prior winter, directly from my own block to my job at the University of Rochester (anybody else have fond memories of the 52 line?). With my children in elementary school and my wife and I both working new jobs, busy-ness and frustration led me to break my routine by buying a parking pass and commuting in a car all winter. It seemed logical enough, especially since my wife and I happened to own two cars for the first time since our daughters had been babies.

But by March, it was clear that car commuting had been a terrible blunder. I found myself much more grumpy, fussing over traffic and parking and gas prices. I was out of shape and feeling lethargic. Canceling the built-in exercise of walking to the bus or biking to the office, and eliminating the routine that gave me quiet outdoor moments for reflection twice a day, had made me miserable — both physically and emotionally. The writing was on the wall: I crave exercise and the joys of active transportation more than I hate the cold. I swore I’d never buy another winter parking pass, and I never have. We soon got rid of that second car.

Once we did, the benefits piled up. For starters, living a car-lite lifestyle can be a big financial help for a young family. Driving less meant we spent less on gas, of course — and today’s high gas prices would increase the impact. Dropping my parking pass saved us a few hundred bucks a year. (Shout out to the University’s free Occasional Parking Program!) But the real financial payoff came with getting rid of that car altogether: no car payments, no insurance, no oil changes, no brake jobs or belt jobs or worries about what would break next. Our car-lite lifestyle continues to save us thousands of dollars each year.

Cost of a car diagram
Diagram from EPA

Other benefits are less tangible, but for a family, maybe more important. Exercise is one of the best things anybody can do for physical and mental health, so building exercise into daily transportation routines is great for parents and kids alike. Biking and walking make my family and me happier, more focused at school and work, and ready to enjoy time together more fully. Burning less fossil fuel and emitting less carbon make my wife and me feel better about our climate impacts, not only for our own sake but also for our two teenage daughters. After all, they will live through more repercussions of climate change than us, and going car-lite now will empower them to be more adaptable and less dependent on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, strolling and rolling around the neighborhood weaves all of us more tightly into our community. The kids bump into classmates; my wife and I see friends and neighbors.

Maybe the best perk for families who go car-lite is one we hadn’t anticipated back in 2015: it has made parenting easier for us. Teaching our kids to walk to elementary school saved us countless hours idling in carpool traffic jams. More importantly, living car-lite lets children gain freedom and learn responsibility in baby steps, as appropriate for their age. In second grade, our girls were big enough to walk by themselves to the playground across the street. In third grade, they could walk to a friend’s house down the block, or another around the corner. Soon, they could bike to see more friends or walk to music lessons. By the time our daughters reached middle school, we found ourselves living a year in Copenhagen. There, great public transportation, world-beating bike infrastructure, and negligible crime rates meant the girls could go nearly anywhere in the city without setting foot in a car. We didn’t own one there anyway. Back in Rochester, though the infrastructure doesn’t match Copenhagen’s, our daughters have the skills and confidence to go many of the places they need, walking to school and work, biking to the pet store and thrift stores. Restricting their childhood transportation to cars alone would have robbed them of the chance to gain agency and independence, steadily and surely, through all those years. Our older daughter will get her driver’s license this fall, and I shudder to think what would have happened if she’d been handed car keys and set loose to drive two tons of high-speed steel without first having learned how to find her way around the world, independently, on foot and on bikes and on buses and trains.

Family of four (two parents, two children) with bikes on a Copenhagen street
The Kelley Family in Copenhagen

Though living car-free in Copenhagen was a breeze, our family has never lived car-free in Rochester. Looking ahead to a time when all four of us will have driver’s licenses, we’re transitioning now from owning just one car to owning two — but certainly not four! The car-lite lifestyle is a pleasure we will continue.

Our chosen lifestyle is made more enjoyable by a few practicalities we’ve figured out along the way. First, we chose to live in a neighborhood with ubiquitous sidewalks and good bike routes to many places, especially our most common destinations, including my workplace, the kids’ schools, grocery stores, gyms, a bank, a pharmacy, a bakery, and a library. If you live near good routes to work and everyday destinations, by bike or bus or walk, transitioning to a car-lite lifestyle could be almost seamless. If you are among the millions working from home nowadays, going car-lite is even easier. If not, and if you’d like to commute by biking or walking, ask whether your employer has a shower. (Pro tip: U of R has many at the medical center, many at the gym, and at least two others on River Campus.) By providing a little extra power, an e-bike can be a key enabler of a pleasurable car-lite lifestyle, especially if you have health or mobility limitations, your commute is a little longer, or you frequently find yourself hauling young children and groceries. Cargo bikes and trailers are wonderful for families, not to mention backpacks and panniers. When children are old enough to pedal themselves but not yet old enough to navigate to school independently, a great solution is a bike train, in which just one or two parents bike along with a group of neighborhood classmates. Carpools are another great way to go car-lite, whether to school or to work. You can find great routes using RTS’s Transit app or browsing Rochester’s Bike Boulevards. When winter weather makes roads and sidewalks slick, you can pull on some microspikes on your way to the nearest bus.

Microspikes make car lite easier
Microspikes are a great way to make walking in the snow less treacherous!

Finally, you can help make a car-lite lifestyle more possible and more pleasurable for your own family and for everybody else by communicating its importance to public officials. A great way to start is by giving input for the City of Rochester’s new Active Transportation Plan and for Monroe County’s new Countywide Active Transportation Plan

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Welcoming Jahasia Esgdaille!

Reconnect Rochester is excited to announce the hiring of Jahasia Esgdaille, Community Engagement Manager!

We’re so glad that Jahasia has joined our dynamic and growing staff team that works day-in and day-out to improve mobility in our community. In her role, she will act as Reconnect’s conduit to the community by developing strong relationships with people and organizational partners, and by conducting on-the-ground outreach. Get to know Jahasia and find out what drove (no pun intended) her to this work in the message below.

P.S. You may recognize Jahasia from one of our Car Lite Rochester blogs

Jahasia Esgdaille stands outside the Reconnect Rochester office door, smiling!
JAHASIA ESGDAILLE

Hello friends and fellow advocates! I’m so honored to step into the Community Engagement Manager position at Reconnect Rochester. The mission of Reconnect Rochester very much aligns with my upbringing growing up in New York City as multi-modality was a part of my family’s everyday life, which I discuss more in my car-lite blog here.

My interest in advocating for mobility justice and transit equity initially began as an environmental sustainability steward where I focused heavily on the ways that I could reduce my personal impact on the planet by swapping car trips for walking, biking or taking the bus. This interest, and admittedly newfound passion, quickly grew into a more encompassing lens on how access to multi-modal transportation options affect everything from our environment to economic opportunities, and more.

I look forward to listening, learning, contributing to and advocating for a sustainable and equitable transportation system for all of our community members!

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Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

By: M. André Primus

Car lite: Andre, his wife, and their daughter pose before a bike ride

I’ve always lived a car-lite lifestyle, but growing up in the hood we used to just call it “broke.” I suppose in Europe they don’t call it anything, it’s just normal. Whatever you call it, it works out to be the same thing: Do you make the majority of your trips with a car or without one? And what does that mean for how you experience your life?

Growing up, we could only afford one car, so I have very early memories of sitting in the child seat on the back of my mom’s bike, watching her standing up in the pedals to get us both up the hill over the train tracks on East Main, on our way to the Public Market. I remember a few years later, pedaling up the same hill behind her on a little bike of my own, my baby sister now taking my place on the back of the bike.

Rochester winters were colder and snowier then, the lead up and lag longer — practically a six-month progression of slush, then ice, then snow, then ice, then slush again. When our bikes were away for the winter, we trudged through the snow to the Sully Library, where I, homeschooled-kid that I was, would sit for hours and read.

Car lite: an adult pulls three kids on a sled down a snowy sidewalk

I remember finding a stash of old RTS tokens in some corner of our old house, undoubtedly uncovered by my mom’s continuous renovations. Even though they had been phased out of use by the mid-1990s, we used them to get on the bus for the next couple of weeks, the driver accepting them out of some combination of bemusement, kindness, and apathy.

The funny thing is, we did have a car for all that time! When gas fit in the budget, or our destination was too difficult for a single mother to haul her two children with alternative transportation, we drove. But I don’t have any memories of my time in the car with my mother, save for a few family road trips. Any day-to-day car travel was struck from my mind, while even the most mundane bike trips stand out with a sort of magical glow. I was a very imaginative child, and as soon as I sat in a car I checked out of this universe. I read a book, or explored the wilds of Hyrule on my Gameboy Color, or simply imagined a world of my own. But traveling without a car, I was present; I could see the world around me. 

As I got older, our life stabilized. My mom started getting higher-paying work, I started attending school, and we used our car more. But I retained a love for alternative transportation. By the time I got to high school I was walking to school every day and exploring the city with my friends, on foot or by bike. 

Once I graduated high school and began attending MCC I biked out to Henrietta daily, year-round. I was occasionally endangered by drivers on my way to school, when I reached the point where Mt. Hope became West Henrietta Road and the shoulder became narrow. More than once the rush of air from a passing truck shook me, or even knocked me off my bike onto the curb. But that couldn’t stop me any more than the snow could. I’d practically been born doing this.

Nowadays I have a family of my own. A wife and two daughters, one four and one six. I’ve worked to create memories for them, the same way my mother did for me. I hope that when they get older, they’ll remember being pulled through the snow in a sled to the Sully Library, or to New City Cafe. Maybe they’ll remember riding to the Public Market as a family on Saturday morning. Maybe they’ll remember how excited they were every time they got to ride the RTS 41 crosstown, how they would cry out and point every time they saw it around the city, “The 41 bus! Look!”

Car lite: Andre poses on his Onewheel in a suit, presumably on his way to work

And I’m still creating my own memories. I ride my Onewheel to work most days, with the exhilarating feelings of floating along powered by electricity and intention, of seeing the city, the people, of feeling the wind in my face. A feeling that, besides the visceral pleasure, provides the sort of feeling of freedom a teenager gets upon getting their license, but without the feeling of being tied down that same teenager will get once they begin dealing with gas, insurance, maintenance, and the inevitable lack of a parking spot.

When it gets too snowy for the onewheel, my mountain bike comes out. In the depths of winter, the effort of plowing through snow banks and navigating the maze of icy berms left by competing snowplows warms me up enough that I often have to remove my jacket, and certainly don’t miss a car’s heating. I’ve watched Rochester’s winters get milder and milder in my 30-odd years, so I take a sort of savage joy in wrestling with the winters we have left. 

I realize I could have made a case here, telling you all the economic, financial, environmental, and sociological reasons why you should consider using your car less, but at the end of the day, I think the emotional experience of living less of your life in a car is reason enough. Maybe you don’t need the monotony, isolation, and immobility of car travel in your life. Maybe, you could have something better?

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Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

Logo: "Car Lite Brewed by Reconnect Rochester." Styled like a beer logo.

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

By: Chaz Goodman

Chaz Goodman (guest blogger) smiling on his bike. He's wearing a black helmet and red backpack.

I love biking. I do it for fun, and for about eight years it was the only way I got around. I love being a part of my surroundings instead of being isolated in a car. I love seeing a friend on a bike or on the sidewalk and calling a quick hello. I love hearing the birds sing and feeling the breeze. I love hearing a busker playing on the street or snippets of a conversation from outdoor diners on Park Avenue. I love that instead of finding time in my busy schedule to work out in a stale indoor space, I can get exercise during my commute. I love that when I’m not feeling active, I can take it easy, bike slower, and still get to work without much effort.

From Chicago to Rochester

I spent my twenties living car free in Chicago before my wife and I moved back to Rochester. Here our lives would be different. We now had a dog and we would be visiting multiple suburbs rather than mostly staying within the city. One of the first things we did was buy two cars, one for each of us.

I added my new car key to a key ring and put it in my back pocket. The key was large and hard to ignore when I sat back down. I shifted slightly and set off the alarm button on the remote. The symbolism of the moment was a little too on the nose for me. I started thinking about how I could get back to my car free lifestyle – or at least car lite.

Commuting by bike in Rochester wasn’t too much of an adjustment from Chicago. In warmer weather, I ride to work in gym clothes and keep my work clothes in a light drawstring bag to stay cool. When I get to work I splash a little water on my face and change in the bathroom. In the winter, I just throw on a jacket over my work outfit. I put my computer and lunch in my panniers. I take East Avenue which generally has a wide shoulder since cars can’t park there during work hours. It is quite spacious for a bicycle.

The shoulder on East Avenue
The shoulder on East Avenue

I am rarely carrying much so taking my bike to work is pretty easy. Even if I have to run multiple errands, I just make sure to bring my backpack. You’d be surprised how much stuff fits in those three bags (panniers and backpack). Due to commuter traffic, travel times are pretty similar on a bike vs a car (especially if I’m traveling within the city). I almost always bike when I go out for the evening and I never worry about where to park or how much it will cost.

Speaking of cost…that alone is a good reason to consider a car lite lifestyle. My bike initially cost me $200 and I’ve probably put about $500-$600 into it for repairs over the course of ten years. Imagine this minimal cost replacing how much you put toward car repairs/payments over even half that period of time.

Challenges & Allowances

I considered my other travel needs beyond commuting, night life, and errands. I’m a musician and I often play gigs where I have to set up my own sound. Here, I allowed that I would need a car to transport my full PA system and multiple instruments/microphones/stands/amplifiers.

My next challenge was visiting family in different suburbs. I started riding from my place in Brighton to my brother’s place in Irondequoit. It’s a long ride but I enjoy it. The only time I feel nervous on a bicycle is crossing under Route 104. There are a lot of drivers who are in a hurry to get on or off the highway and they just aren’t expecting a cyclist. Nonetheless, it’s definitely doable and 104 is only one small part of my ride. TIP: I stay safe by assuming a car doesn’t see me unless I have made eye contact with the driver.

My next allowance was to drive to my parents’ place in Webster because biking this route is unfortunately quite impractical. The Bay Bridge is obviously not built for bicycles and although Empire Boulevard has a wide shoulder, cars are often going upwards of 60 MPH. I’ve read a few sobering stories about collisions gone wrong there. Plus, biking in Webster itself makes me nervous.  

If I took public transit I would need to take three buses for an hour, without any delays. There isn’t a bus that goes to my parent’s neighborhood so I would need to walk an additional five miles to their house which is not in the RTS demand area. Or I could drive and it would take 20 minutes. I can hardly blame someone who chooses to drive when we have made it so much easier than the alternative.

I decided that other than these allowances, I was going to bike even in challenging circumstances. I have a raincoat for rainy days, staying active on my bike keeps me warm in the winter, and I have multiple lights for night riding.

Then my son was born. Now the lack of protected bike infrastructure I had been blissfully unaware of as an able-bodied adult became glaringly obvious. I’m in the process of putting a toddler seat on my bike so my son can join me for errands in the city, but it’s still nerve-racking to consider. His daycare is located on a particularly busy four lane section of South Clinton Avenue so I plan to ride on the sidewalk with him for safety.

South Clinton Avenue's four lanes
South Clinton Avenue’s four lanes

The Big Picture: Why Be Car Lite?

It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated at the decisions made for our communities. When I mention reducing car usage to people I often hear the counter argument: “don’t force your lifestyle onto the rest of us.” But we’ve already all but forced people to use cars with our street design and inefficient public transit.

Some people genuinely prefer driving and that’s fine. But there are plenty of people who would opt for transit or biking if they felt it was safe and convenient. Many people don’t realize how impractical cars are because they never considered a life without them. I was certainly one of those people before spending nearly a decade without a car.

Stock image of a frustrated driver and passenger, perhaps in a traffic jam

Beyond their environmental impact, cars are just inefficient for most of our daily needs. Go to any public area and look at how much space is devoted to parking. Imagine if we could reduce that. Imagine how much more space we would have and how pleasant it would be. Imagine if drunk drivers weren’t a concern because most people weren’t driving when they went out. Imagine if children could travel with classmates via buses to their various after school activities rather than relying on overtaxed parents to transport them everywhere. Imagine if you didn’t have to drive to work every day and you could spend your commute on public transit; reading or daydreaming or writing or texting or sending emails. Imagine not needing to spend every day operating a dangerous machine that requires complete focus to stay safe. Imagine not needing to worry about car repair bills or auto insurance. Imagine a world where road construction is less common because there aren’t thousands of cars degrading the quality daily.

For those who say it’s impossible: consider the fact that our cities used to operate this way with a multitude of pedestrians, trains, buses, bicycles, and cars sharing public space. Even now our public school bus system shows us this is far from a pipe dream. Systemic change is difficult to imagine and even more difficult to enact but it’s certainly not impossible.

Eventually my son will be able to walk to school and take his own bike to get around town. Then I can reduce my car reliance even more. I hope to eventually go back to being car free when it’s possible. For now, I will continue to support institutions such as Reconnect Rochester that are working to correct the imbalance.

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Making Rochester Streets Safer for All: The 2022 Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard

Makeover team at Orange & Orchard
Photo Credit: De’Jon Washington

As we report out on the third successful Complete Streets Makeover project, let’s remember why we do this.

In the U.S., pedestrian fatalities have skyrocketed, increasing by 59% from 2009-2020. According to the latest “Dangerous By Design” report, between 2009-2020, drivers struck and killed 64,073 pedestrians in this country. Here in Monroe County, from 2012-2021, over 5,000 crashes involved bicyclists and pedestrians, and ten people die on our local streets every year as a result of these crashes.

Monroe County Crash Map
Reconnect Rochester Crash Map of Monroe County, 2012-2021

Responding to this growing epidemic was the impetus behind our Complete Streets Makeover project, created to bring attention to street design as one critical factor in the safe streets equation.

The Selection Process

We began this year’s project back in July 2021 by asking you (the people that walk, bike, and roll along our streets every day) to help identify the intersections and trouble spots where you live, work and play that could be redesigned to make them safer for everyone. The community response was tremendous, and we received a total of 76 nominations for 68 locations in Monroe County.

From these submissions, our Steering Committee selected the intersection of Orange Street & Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood for this year’s project.

Complete Streets Makeover Steering Committee
The Steering Committee hard at work

The Orange & Orchard location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street redesign that would create real, transformative change for the community through this project. School 17 is located right at this intersection and was a strong advocate for implementing change. Last fall, the Rochester City School District eliminated the Walker-Bus Program that had provided transportation for students living within 1.5 miles of their school, which contributed to the school’s desire to improve safety for its walkers.

Getting Community Input

So what happened next? We connected with representatives of School 17 and the JOSANA neighborhood, and together we planned a community workshop held in February at the school. We invited school families and residents to come share their experiences at this intersection and ideas for how it could be safer. At the workshop, which was facilitated by the Community Design Center of Rochester-CDCR, attendees were first led through the basics of road safety statistics and complete streets. Then, CDCR volunteers helped translate the community’s thoughts and desires into actionable design elements that would improve the intersection.

Based on community input from this session, the Stantec team drafted a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. Their rendering focused on elements that could be brought to life in the temporary, on-street installation and then translated into permanent improvements.

Complete Streets Makeover Design Rendering

Making Magic at Orange & Orchard

After much planning with the JOSANA neighborhood, over 150 people came out to Orange & Orchard on May 14 to make the magic happen! Attendees were made up of people from the neighborhood, school community, and a team of community partners*. Together, we worked to make the intersection of Orange Street & Orchard Street a more vibrant, safer place for everyone.

Design elements to calm traffic and improve safety included enhanced signage, curb extensions, temporary speed cushions, and a street mural designed by local artist Shawn Dunwoody. The temporary design was created by Stantec, which donates pro bono professional engineering services for the project. Other elements to beautify the space, like fence art and flower planters, were done with help of 2nd graders as part of their class project.

Nothing captures the life of a project better than film. Reconnect Rochester is pleased to share this short film, produced by Floating Home Films, that tells the full story.

We hope you enjoyed watching a beautiful display of community! We will continue supporting the neighborhood in their effort to make these temporary street design improvements permanent.

The Impact

But did it make a difference? YES! Data collected before and after the implementation (April and July, respectively) shows a measurable decrease in vehicle speeds along Orchard Street. Let’s get specific.

Makeover speed data graphic

Since the implementation, the 85th percentile speed (the speed that 85% of vehicles travel at or below) declined 28% and the maximum speed declined 26%. It’s worth noting that the maximum recorded speed in July happened between 1:15am and 1:30am.  Other than that outlier, the maximum speed was only 32 mph!  Even the average speed dropped 20%, despite there being no school in July. This is particularly notable with the safe assumption that arrival/dismissal congestion suppressed the speed of a great deal of traffic during our April data collection.  Finally, the speed data showed only 13 of 1,017 vehicles were traveling over 25 mph.

When it comes to speed, each mile-per-hour a driver is traveling makes a difference for pedestrian and cyclist safety, and can be the difference between life and death or a person sustaining life altering injuries.

Impact of pedestrian collisions graphic
The impact of vehicle speed in pedestrian collisions (The Healthi Kids Coalition)

Learn even more about the Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard

Looking Ahead

Our awesome team is on board to continue our Complete Streets Makeover program in 2023 and beyond!  So keep taking note of the intersections and trouble spots you experience in your daily travels that could use a re-design, and keep an eye out for calls for public submissions. Together, we’ll keep advocating to design our streets for people, and we’ll keep making it happen one intersection at a time.

*Community Partners

The Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard was a collaborative venture with the following community partners:

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Stuck in a Bus Rut, But We Still Believe

Reconnect Rochester meets with the team at RTS on a regular basis. We listen and ask questions. We share feedback from transit riders and offer ideas. We seek to understand and strive to be a good community partner.

Many of you might be wondering what’s going on with all the service changes over the last few years. We want to share our latest understanding with the general riding public, and anyone else who cares about having reliable public transportation in our community. Read on for our take on what happened, what’s happening, and what to expect.

As an advocacy organization, it’s important for us to collect input and channel it to the ears of RTS leadership so they can better understand the impact of their decisions on transit users. To that end, we’ve constructed a survey to find out from RTS riders how your experience has changed (for better or worse) since the implementation of the Reimagine RTS system redesign last spring. We also want to hear from former RTS riders about why you have stopped riding and what it would take to get you back.

We’ll be collecting this input through the month of August online and in-person, and then we’ll collate it and pass it on to RTS leadership. Please help us out by sharing this survey with your friends!

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What’s the current situation and what can we expect?

We’ll give it to you straight first with no sugar added, and then add a dash of hope and sweetness later.

RTS ridership is still hovering around 65-70% of pre-pandemic levels with no sign of an upturn.

On-demand service in the mobility zones is exceeding demand, resulting in a service denial rate of 30-35%. The service management platform has been problematic. This combination has made service in the towns and suburbs of Monroe County often frustrating and unreliable.

Five (5) of the seven (7) 15-minute frequency routes in the core service area – the big promise of the Reimagine RTS system redesign – reverted back to 30-minute frequency. The result is worse service for some riders than they had before.

RTS doesn’t expect any of this to change or improve until at least January 2023, when new buses and vans arrive, enough drivers are hired, and a new on-demand technology platform is put in place. 

Who is impacted most?

The unfulfilled promise of Reimagine RTS of more frequent and robust service is a burden that falls squarely on transit dependent people in our community. It stands to reason that transit dependent folks make up most of the 70% of riders who are still on the bus. Unlike “choice riders” who were able to choose another way to get around, this group of folks don’t have another option than to rely on the bus. 

Bus Stop

With the system as it is, a commute time that was already long, is made longer. Those who live or need to get to work in the mobility zones are especially hard hit. Because demand is far outpacing service capacity, there is a new unreliability that is arguably worse than the service that existed before. At least then you knew a fixed route bus would be coming along at a set time, even if only every 60 minutes.

How did we get here?

The pandemic took a huge toll on RTS. In June 2020, the long-awaited Reimagine RTS system redesign launch was postponed as RTS focused on pandemic response, health safety on buses, and pitching in to meet emergency transportation needs. Reimagine RTS finally launched almost a year later in May 2021.

A few months later (Sept 2021), a shortage of private contract bus drivers created a crisis with RCSD school bus transportation. RTS stepped in and provided service so that kids could get to school. However, to free up buses and drivers, they rolled back the 15-minute frequent service that had been the hallmark of Reimagine RTS.

For the last year, RTS has been struggling to get the buses and drivers in place so they can add back the frequency in regular service and meet the unexpectedly high demand for on-demand service in the mobility zones. The good folks at RTS want to restore the frequent service as much as anyone and are working overtime to problem-solve the situation.

There are two things standing in the way: 1) Supply chain issues have prevented vans and buses, ordered more than a year ago, from arriving. 2) Steep competition in the labor market has made it more challenging to hire RTS drivers. In April 2022, due to ongoing equipment and staffing shortages, RTS announced service changes that included “pausing” the new Rt 42 crosstown, another rollback of the Reimagine RTS system redesign.

It’s little comfort, but we are not alone in this. Transit ridership is down everywhere in the wake of the pandemic. Equipment and bus driver shortages are plaguing transit systems across the country, and have led to even more severe service cuts in neighboring Buffalo and Syracuse over the past year. 

Bus Ridership
Dec 29 2019 – July 30 2022 National Data (APTA Ridership Trends dashboard)

Is there any good news?

Yes, there is plenty. 

A host of Reimagine RTS service improvements were successfully implemented and have made a big difference for many riders. Things like increased weekend service hours and frequency, the Rt 40 & 41 crosstown routes, newly added 30-minute frequency routes, and two 15-minute frequency routes (E. Main & Dewey Ave) that were reinstated.

This spring, the RGRTA Board approved a new service management platform in the mobility zones to replace the problematic one, so that fix is on its way.

Ridership data collected from the 15-minute routes has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that frequency = increased ridership. Unexpectedly high ridership in the mobility zones shows there’s a strong demand for public transit in the towns and suburbs. What’s the takeaway? When we can restore the promises of Reimagine RTS, we will see huge gains in ridership.

Thanks to advocacy efforts led statewide by NYPTA and locally by Reconnect Rochester, as well as our Albany delegation’s support for public transportation, State Transit Operating Assistance funding for RGRTA will be increased by 15.17%. This removes funding as a barrier to service expansion & restoration (the problem is that money can’t solve the immediate problem of staffing and equipment shortages).

Many would say the Transit App has been a bright spot. Anyone who uses it can attest to the awesome design and functionality to guide transit riders in moving around.

RTS is leading New York State in the conversion to electric buses and also just got State funding to add hydrogen fuel cell buses to its fleet in the coming years. That’s a great thing for the environment and the quality of the air we breathe.

Finally, there’s also hope for expansion of bus amenities to improve the riding experience. Reconnect Rochester just got 23 more bus stop cubes on the ground, bringing the total to 54 bus stops around the city. Even more exciting, the City of Rochester with support from RTS, is applying for a $2M State funding grant to make a sweeping investment in bus stop amenities. This could mean shelters, benches, and bus stop cubes installed at hundreds of stops in the city that currently have no seating. Keep your fingers and toes crossed!

Rochester Bus

What can RTS do?

We wouldn’t be a very worthwhile advocacy organization if we didn’t point out some ways that RTS can do better even under the current constraints.

We challenge RTS to acknowledge what its customers are really experiencing minus any positive spin. Be transparent and communicate what’s happening. As transit riders, we’d like to know what’s going on. Share ridership statistics and denial rates with the community and explain why. Tell us what you’re doing to resolve the service issues. How many drivers are in the pipeline? How many buses are on order? What’s the timeline for the new user management system for the mobility zones? You get the idea.

What can we/YOU do?

Fill out our survey to share your experience.

Whether you’re a current rider or a former rider that has stopped riding the bus, we want to hear from you. We promise to deliver your thoughts to RTS leadership in the hope that your voice will impact future decision making.

If you ride RTS regularly, keep sending them your feedback.

They might not be able to make major changes happen, but they have been responsive to small improvements when they hear a sensible adjustment that can be made. Positive feedback is important, too. If RTS does something that improves your situation, let them know! Also, driving a bus can be a difficult and stressful job. A friendly greeting to the driver when you enter the bus, and thanking them for getting you to your destination safely can make a difference. You can play a part in driver retention!

Ditch the car and ride RTS whenever it works for your schedule.

Mary at Reconnect talking here. My own personal commute improved significantly thanks to the new Route 41 crosstown, which gets me to the office in 17 minutes door-to-door. In those 17 minutes, I get to enjoy some fresh air and a little exercise, check my inbox, give and take smiles (even if only with the eyes) with fellow passengers, and save gas money leaving the car at home.

Bus Arriving

Wondering what your bus commute would look like? Visit myrts.com or download the Transit App to find out!

We still believe

Reconnect Rochester has long advocated for a public transit system that delivers frequency. We still believe that the Reimagine RTS plan – when fully implemented – will set us on a path to a more frequent and robust system. There are tradeoffs, yes, but it will be a net positive overall.

At Reconnect Rochester, we look forward to when we will see the full promise of the new system fulfilled, and can truly welcome in a new day for public transportation in Rochester. We look forward to bringing back our Roc Transit Day event to showcase the changes and attract busloads of new choice riders – because choice ridership enriches the whole system, making it better for everyone. We look forward to the day when public transportation can serve as an integrating, rather than segregating, force in our community.

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Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

By: Arian Horbovetz, Creator of The Urban Phoenix

I remember the feeling of thunderous accomplishment as I dismounted from my bike and whacked my kickstand with exaggerated force.  I texted my girlfriend at the time, letting her know I had made it to work safely.  I took a selfie, and entered my workplace, where I immediately began bragging about what I had just done.  I sat at my desk and took yet another selfie, which I posted on my Facebook page.

selfie of white man in blue helmet; car lite rochester

For the first time, I biked to work.  I had researched for days, looking for the route with the least amount of car exposure.  I had to assure my partner several times that this was OK and I would be safe, and that this was something I really wanted to try.  Now that I had done it, it didn’t feel like such a big deal.  Sure, the hit of elation that came from light exercise and being outside on a late-summer morning when everyone else was frantically piling into their car was intoxicating, but honestly my 4-mile Rochester-to-Henrietta bike commute suddenly didn’t seem like the momentous event that I thought it would be.  Something I thought was an outlier of an experience suddenly felt very natural and approachable.  Later, I would realized that by biking to work one time, I had simply and swiftly demolished the construct that is so ingrained in our American persona from the time we are young… the idea that driving is the only way to move about.  For me, the simple act of powering myself to work on two wheels vanquished that concept forever.

So I biked to work the next day.  And the one after that.  And the full week after that!  Suddenly, the activity that seemed so “fringe” just a short time ago felt incredibly normal, almost routine.  I began to take different routes to work, just to see streets I hadn’t spent much time on and mix up the landscape.  I left home earlier and stopped for coffee and read the news.  Suddenly my formally A to B commute turned into a micro-sightseeing adventure on my way to work.  My car began to sit for days, even weeks at a time.  I began to bike everywhere… to the store, the market, out to meet friends.  I started to make use of Greater Rochester’s fruitful trail network, and memorized every low traffic street that would get me where I needed to go with minimal car contact.  My mom lived in Pittsford at the time, so I simply hopped on the Empire State Trail and visited her every week.  Sure, I had a car and sure, I still used it occasionally.  I just didn’t want to.  Or rather I felt like when I got on a bike, I was doing something better.  Not just for me and my health, but for the community and the planet.

Winter sidewalk. Rochester NY.

And it didn’t stop there.  As the winter weather began to creep in, I started riding the bus.  Having time in the morning to check emails on my to work, or simply relax while traveling to a meeting in the city became a joy, especially on those frigid and snowy Rochester days.  Even in good weather, I would throw my bike on the front rack of the bus and go “multi-modal” to countless destinations in the city and even the nearest suburbs.  I found the sense of community on the bus to be enjoyable as well, an aspect of transit that is easy to forget when traveling alone by car.

As far-fetched as it might seem, using a broad range of transportation modes helped to expand the focus beyond my insulated life, allowing me to see that I was part of something bigger and more interconnected… and something I could help to make a little better every day.  It made me realize the importance of urban density and mixed-use development.  It helped me understand that with every car trip turned bike ride or bus trip, I was one less polluter, one less car on the road that was stuck in the traffic jam, one less parking space needed, and one less safety concern for pedestrians and other bike riders.  These were the seeds that led me to create TheUrbanPhoenix.com, a blog that addresses urban issues across New York State, which now enjoys a national readership.

A decade after that first bike ride, I’ve become a full-fledged multi-modal transportation advocate.  With the persistent work by cyclists and transit riders, as well as organizations like Reconnect Rochester, I’ve seen our city slowly progress as we work to make our streets safer and more equitable.  There are tremendous hurdles we must climb to make alternative transportation a safer and more convenient form of mobility in The Flower City, but with the dedication of so many advocates who understand that life is better when you’re multi-modal, I am pleasantly optimistic.

I still own a car.  It’s a used sub-compact that is cheap, slow and completely unsexy.  I went car-free for over a year at one point, but the modern realities of American sprawl, combined with my recent introduction to the “everything suddenly hurts” phase of middle-aged awareness means that a car-lite lifestyle is the way for me.  And of course, with the lack of adequate snow removal from most trails and bike lanes in our community, having a car as a “backup” means that I can still get to where I need to go regardless of the conditions and how we maintain our infrastructure.  And for that I understand I’m privileged, as many in our community cannot afford that luxury.  Still, I bike and ride the bus far more miles each year than I drive, and that helps me feel like I am making a difference.

When I started biking to work, I felt accomplished.  When I started taking the bus to destinations across Rochester, I felt empowered.  When this became a routine, it transformed me into an advocate.  Today, it’s a way of life, and one that has helped me to understand how connected I can feel to my community, just by moving around it.

Today, using multi-modal transportation has become as practical as it is satisfying.  I have even added other mobility options to my “fleet,” such as an an Ebike, an Electric Scooter, a Onewheel, and several longboards (I taught myself to skateboard during COVID!).  All of these options allow me to adapt to nearly any trip, any condition and frankly, they make moving around a lot more fun.

I am relatively unaffected by the realities of stifling gas prices.  Finding parking for our numerous Rochester events like Jazz Fest and Red Wings games is not just easy, it’s always free.  And when others rant about the horrors of their adversarial morning commute, I can’t help but grin, knowing that two-thirds of my bike ride to work is along a trail through nature where I watch the sun speckle through the trees and “befriend” deer, rabbits, ducks, geese, foxes, giant turtles and even a pack of wild turkeys.

And that’s the realization that eventually comes from living car-free or even car-lite for an extended period of time.  Suddenly, you see the battleground of automobile aggression on our roads as you slowly move past it, through it and beyond it, unaffected by the anxiety of the masses who are constantly trying to shave seconds off of their journey.  It’s the wry smile you can’t contain, like knowing that you’re one of the few that have discovered a secret happiness that you wish others could experience, even just once.  I don’t do what I do for purposes of ego or politics… I do it because I know I feel like a better, more complete human being.  I don’t advocate for what I do for any other reason than I wish others had the opportunity to see mobility the way I do… and if they did, I truly believe our world would look very different.  And that “different” is the Rochester I would love to imagine for our future.

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Sidewalk Cycling Explained

Arian Horbovetz

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

As early summer finally begins to grace the Northeast, residents of Upstate New York begin their annual euphoric embrace of life without snow, ice, and bitter cold for the first time in 5 months. Like a pauper who suddenly becomes a millionaire, hearty populations of places like Rochester immediately start thinking about what to do with the newfound possibilities created by sunshine and warmth.

For me, this is often the time when people reach out for recommendations on cycling, and specifically, tips on how to commute to work or run errands by bike. Record gas prices have, unsurprisingly, made these requests more frequent and even a bit more urgent than in previous years.

And since I live in a metro that was built to, first and foremost, accommodate the automobile, hesitant first time bike commuters often ask the same question: “is it ok to bike on the sidewalk?”

Thus begins the very multifaceted, multidimensional, and eternally context-driven debate that seems so simple and yet is so very complex. My hope is that this post, once and for all, addresses every perspective on sidewalk cycling and what first time bike-commuters should do, what long-time cyclists should advocate for and what urbanists today should encourage and discourage.

Person cycles on a sidewalk
Image Credit: Bellingham Herald

The Debate

In most of the U.S. the law is clear… bikes are vehicles and are thus supposed to be ridden in the road with cars. This oddity that equates a 20-pound bike with a 2-ton automobile in the eyes of the law is actually the result of cycling advocates decades ago who believed (and still do) that bikes and cars should be afforded the same rights.

But obviously, the bike and the car couldn’t be more different mobility solutions with regard to safety and comfort. For the parents who just want to ride with their kids, or for the new rider or new commuter who is understandably shaken by the idea of riding with traffic, the sidewalk is an appealing alternative to biking in the street. And while a majority of municipalities allow bikes on sidewalks, cycling advocates continue to encourage bike riders to ride in the road.

There are several reasons for this, and most of them have to do with driveways and intersections. A large percentage of car/bike crashes happen when a car turns into a cyclist while making a left or right turn, or when a car is pulling into or out of a driveway. For example, let’s say you’re riding your bike northbound on the left hand sidewalk. The road that is parallel to you is 4 lanes wide. You approach an intersection and while you may have the right away across the perpendicular street, a car turning left from the 4 lane road adjacent to you is looking to make their left turn across multiple lanes of oncoming traffic. In the 5-15 seconds that the driver of that car has been waiting for an opening in traffic to turn left, you, the sidewalk cyclist, have ridden up from behind and started to cross the perpendicular street. The driver who finally has space to move in between oncoming traffic turns quickly and a “T-Bone” crash occurs between the driver and the cyclist.

Two people with long red hair cycle in a Rochester street
Image Credit: Laura Mack

If the cyclist had been riding in the road, they would have been riding with traffic, thus alleviating the sightline issue from the driver’s perspective noted above. Cycling is safer when we eliminate the 90-degree points of conflict between cars and bikes, especially when the bike rider is on the sidewalk.

Also, pedestrians who use sidewalks dislike the presence of faster-moving vehicles like bikes and scooters for reasons of comfort and safety. While I would like to think that sidewalks can be shared space for all of those who navigate their communities without a car, I’ve listened to countless stories of pedestrians who have been struck or rudely surprised by cyclists invading what really should be a “safe space” for those traveling on two feet.

So with regard to a feeling of safety, cyclists are often left without a home. Drivers loath the inconvenience of navigating around road-riding cyclists, while pedestrians on sidewalks see cyclists like cyclists see cars… an uncomfortable point of conflict that needs to be addressed.

Safely Riding The Sidewalk

If riding in the road isn’t for you, here are sure-fire tips to lessen the conflicts that I described above when riding on the sidewalk. To ensure your sidewalk-riding experience is comfortable and responsible, you must be willing to adapt your speed and behavior in acquiescence to pedestrians… and assume drivers don’t see you.

  • When riding on the sidewalk and approaching an intersecting road or driveway, approach slowly, first checking to see if a car is approaching via this road or driveway. Next is what I call the “look-back,” which is the sidewalk cycling game changer. Turn your head to the parallel street to see if there is a car turning into the driveway or street you are about to cross. Look for slowing traffic with a turn signal, and if there is any doubt, slow your momentum until you are sure the driver sees you, or stop if you anticipate that the driver does not. Even if you have the right of way, DON’T EVER ASSUME that the driver can see you and navigate the intersection without this step. Use the “look-back” method multiple times as you approach and move across the intersection. If you do this for every intersection, you essentially eliminate one of the most glaring safety risks with sidewalk riding.
  • When riding on the sidewalk, give maximum priority to pedestrians by riding in the grass to allow oncoming walkers the entire sidewalk. When approaching pedestrians from behind, slow to 5-10mph or less, kindly announce that you are about to move around them on the left, and ride around them on the grass (if applicable). As a cyclist, it’s important to remember you are a guest on a right-of-way that is reserved for pedestrians. Pedestrian access is a sort of an urbanist “Holy Grail” and one that should not be besmirched.
  • Understand that, as a sidewalk rider, you become a pedestrian instead of a vehicle pilot. In other words, let’s say you approach a signaled intersection on bike while riding in the road with traffic. When the light changes green in your direction, you move forward with the flow of traffic. But if you are riding the sidewalk, you may have to press the crosswalk button every time you approach an intersection. If you do not do this, you are taking matters into your own hands. For example, let’s say that you are riding on the sidewalk and the road parallel to you has the green light, but the pedestrian crosswalk signal still says “Don’t Walk” until you press the button to cross the perpendicular street. You decide that the street parallel to the sidewalk you are traversing has the right of way, despite what the pedestrian signal says. If a car turns into you, despite the fact that you didn’t press the button to activate the walk sign, and hits you and a court case is the result, the fact that you did not push the button will likely mean that you are at fault and thus liable for damages.
  • I would HIGHLY advise against riding an electric bike on the sidewalk. As most ebikes are capable of speeds upward of 20mph, and weigh far more than the average bike, the threat to pedestrians is greatly magnified and chances that cars navigating cross street won’t see you is heightened. Sidewalk riding should not exceed the typical leisurely pace of 10-12mph.
  • Never ride on the sidewalk of a dense urban setting with many storefronts and apartment entrances. Few things make shop and restaurant owners angrier than when their customers have to look both ways before exiting their establishment to avoid being hit by a cyclist.

In Sum

Want to ride on the sidewalk instead of in the road with traffic? That’s fine, most municipalities allow it. And beyond that, I understand it. But if you’re going to ride on the sidewalk, know that you are basically giving up your legal status as a pilot of a vehicle and become a pedestrian, who is legally subject to crosswalk signaling, and who is physically responsible for ensuring that drivers see you when you traverse any intersection.

Also, it’s important to realize why bike advocates like myself encourage riding in the road rather than the sidewalk. We know that there is power in numbers, and that worldwide, the more cyclists there are, the safer the roads are for cyclists. Riding on the sidewalk, however, is seen in much of the cycling community as “giving in” to drivers and yielding the road to automobiles.

Person cycling in a city
Image Credit: Unsplash

As a daily bike commuter, I would strongly encourage you to consider finding alternatives to sidewalk riding. Parallel routes with fewer cars and slower traffic can be game changers, for example. And no matter where you ride, bright lights and a helmet can make you feel a little more in control of your own safety. But if you feel there are places you simply won’t ride in the road, remember the tips from this post. Even I have stretches of road I refuse to traverse on bike, so I slow my speed and take to the concrete, and I refuse to be shameful about it.

For me, I’d rather see someone ride a bike on the sidewalk than not at all. My hope will continue to be that the regular sidewalk rider will eventually transition to the road when they feel more comfortable. But if not, no worries… just take matters of safety and responsibility into your own hands and ride any way you can!

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A Resident’s Proposal for a New Mixed-use Trail in Irondequoit

If you’ve ever navigated the world without a car (whether that be for necessity or recreation), you’ve probably had a, “Why can’t I get over there from here?” moment. Guest blogger, Jack Rinaldo, had so many of these “moments” that he actually wrote up a proposal for a new mixed-use trail in Irondequoit, which would connect the eastern edges of Norton Street and Ridge Road. Curious? Read on for the nitty-gritty details in his own words.

Guest Blog by Jack Rinaldo

If you want to walk or bike to or from Southeast Irondequoit, you need to cross 104. There are only three locations to do so, highlighted in red in the picture below. Goodman Street and Culver Road have intersections with on/off ramps for 104. Both of these locations are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, no matter if they are on the road or the sidewalk. The other option is Bay Shore Boulevard. This street is calm, but it has huge hills at either end of it, making it unusable for most people.

These barriers cut off the southeast side from the rest of Irondequoit. Would you let your kids use any of the three current routes? I am an experienced and confident cyclist and I will not ride on those sections of Goodman or Culver.

Current map, annotated

The proposed new trail would run from Norton Street north to Ridge Road. As seen in the picture below, the trail would start just east of the Norton Street/590 onramp. The trail could run very close to the 590 onramp, similar to the Brooks Avenue/390/Erie Canal Trail setup as shown below. It would then run north, connecting with the road that the new Irondequoit town Department of Public Works (DPW) is on. This half mile section would potentially be the only new construction needed.

Once connected to the DPW road, trail users could use that road to reach Ridge Road. Additional sections of trail to the side of the road could be added as well if they are determined to be needed.

This trail would be similar to other local trails near highways such as the Route 390 Trail in Greece, and the Route 104 Trail in Webster.

Proposed trail connection map
Example map
Brooks Avenue, 390, & Erie Canal Trail

This new trail would easily connect to the Sea Breeze Drive trail as seen in the picture below. Once at Ridge Road, trail users go 1000 feet west to Kane Drive. Kane Drive is a nice calm street. Once at Kane Drive, they would proceed north until they met the Sea Breeze Drive trail at the Titus Avenue roundabout.

The new trail would also easily connect to the City of Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards. Heading south, traveling 700 feet west on Norton Street brings you to Helendale Road. Helendale Road is another calm street. Once in the Laurelton neighborhood, use Spencer Road and Whittington Road to directly access the Bicycle Boulevard system on Farmington Road.

To connect the new trail to the other systems above, all that would be needed would be signage directing users along the route.

Proposed trail connection map

The newly expanded trail system would also connect all six of the schools in the East Irondequoit School district. Students and families could use the trail to access school facilities for class and extracurricular events.

  • Irondequoit High School is 400 feet from the Kane Drive/Ridge Road intersection, and a path to the school’s athletic facilities is on Kane Drive.
  • East Irondequoit Middle school is 1200 feet west of the Norton Road/Helendale Road intersection, then 500 feet up Densmore Road.
  • Laurelton-Pardee Intermediate School is 1700 feet from the Norton Road/Helendale Road intersection.
  • Helendale Road Primary School is directly on Helendale Road.
  • Durand-Eastman Intermediate School is almost directly on the Sea Breeze Drive trail.
  • Ivan Green Primary School is 1 mile away by safe neighborhood roads from Kane Drive.

The newly expanded system would connect many parks such as Irondequoit Bay Park West, Tryon Park, Durand-Eastman Park, the Lakeside Trail, SeaBreeze Amusement Park, Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park, and the beach at the Irondequoit Bay outlet.

Here is a link illustrating the new trail and it’s connectivity to the town: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1CTSRzSTvziHLSrxeJaSAt5wvJEjHc9Sd&usp=sharing (best viewed with Google Maps’ cycling layer turned on)

Irondequoit can look at the successes other towns have with trails, such as the new Brickyard Trail in Brighton, as well as the continued use of miles of trail that already exist in the region. Creating the new trail would be a great opportunity for the town to take unutilized land and better connect residents and neighborhoods, while promoting healthy and environmentally friendly transportation. The half mile of construction needed to achieve all of this would be very worth it.

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Introducing: Car Lite ROC Blog Series

Think about the last trip you took in a personal vehicle.  Could you have taken it another way?  Maybe not.  But what about the last two, three, four trips?  Probably!

The truth is, having access to a car makes it really easy to get behind the wheel for all your short trips that could be completed via public transit, bike, scooter, etc.

It’s no secret that we live in a car-centric culture that is focused on everything happening NOW.  Losing a few minutes to travel seems like a big deal with our busy schedules.  Inclement weather sometimes makes opting for a bike ride less desirable.  Maybe the bus is running behind schedule and you have an important meeting to get to.  We get it: it’s hard to make the shift.  We’re hoping to help with that.

Introducing: Car Lite Rochester, a blog series that will highlight the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle! The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, follow along over the next few months.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep the car-lite lifestyle? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

From Transit-Spoiled in the Big Apple to Car-Lite in the Flower-City 

By: Jahasia K. Esgdaille

On August 28, 2021, I sold my 2008 Nissan Sentra and officially became “car-lite”. But this wasn’t an entirely new experience for me. Growing up in New York City, born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, car-free and car-lite living was just a normal part of my family’s day-to-day life from going to school to getting groceries, we’ve never been car-dependent. Ever. So, selling my car ironically felt like I was returning to what was familiar to me, and taking the bus again was comforting. Admittedly, however, it was a little scary because the transit options in Rochester weren’t quite what I was used to back home. So, there was naturally a learning curve.

I started diligently planning out my days, noting when to take off so I could get to work on time or if I was taking a grocery trip to Wegmans, how long I had to shop before my next bus was on its way, and if I was really in a pinch and wasn’t on top of things I would borrow my fiance’s car. 

Going car-lite in Rochester took a lot more planning and organization than simply jumping in my car and getting from point A to point B, and I actually began to experience many of the small improvements that could be made for myself and others who were also car-lite or car-free, whether it was by choice or not. For example, it’s a lot more difficult to be happy about not owning a car in the winter when you’re waiting at a shelterless bus stop or when you have to stumble over a mountain of snow just to get on the bus. These are things that I never thought about when I had my car but something I began to advocate for after personally experiencing this. It’s something that’s a minor hindrance for me when taking the bus but it’s actually a major accessibility issue for people who rely on public transportation.

Although I saw much to be improved on, there were also many unexpected benefits that I’ve experienced from being car-lite here in Rochester. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Connecting more to my community. When I had the habit of jumping in my car anytime I wanted to get somewhere, I was flying by all of the small, local businesses that were right in my backyard that I never noticed before. When I went car-lite and decided to bike or walk to my destination it was like noticing a new world for the first time. On top of that, I noticed that getting out of your car and into the world means that you actually connect with other human beings. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations and moments I’ve had with total strangers. Okay, maybe I’ll tell you one. I was chatting with a sweet older lady on the bus one day and she casually described my hair as “very artistic”. I have locs, and I’ve never seen it that way, but it’s stuck with me ever since, and it actually made my day! It’s the random moments, the ones that catch you off guard, that make you appreciate the unique characters in your city that you might just fly by in your car.

Going grocery shopping. Another unusual benefit that I’ve actually enjoyed is biking to get groceries. Once I sold my car, I wondered why on Earth I would drive to Wegmans if it was a 5-10 minute bike ride away. Of course, I can’t load up on two weeks worth of groceries on one bike trip. But I figured that gives me an excuse to exercise throughout the week if I make multiple trips to get groceries. So I found a milk crate at Cobbs Hill because no one ever buys a milkcrate, and bought a used pannier bag and started biking to Wegmans and Abundance Co-op 1-2 times a week. When the weather gets nice, I love seeing other bikers around Rochester heading to the co-op with cargo bikes, panniers, milk crates and their kids in the back to get groceries.

(Left photo: Using panniers at Wegmans. Right Photo: Getting grocery essentials with my milk crate at Abundance Co-op)

Lowering my carbon footprint and personal vehicle impact. When I sold my Nissan and opted for biking, walking and taking the bus as my primary way of getting around, I significantly reduced my personal carbon emissions. The average personal vehicle emits about 4.6 tons of CO2 each year, that’s a quarter of the emissions emitted by the average American annually. As someone who tries to live as sustainably as possible, owning a gas-powered car simply didn’t align with my values for the environment.

Since I sold my Nissan back in August and experienced going car-lite, I’ve actually bought my dream car, a 2008 Toyota Prius. But, that hasn’t changed my perception or behaviors of multi-modality and pedestrianization in our flower city, and I still very much consider myself car-lite. If the weather is nice, and I am definitely a “fair-weather-biker”. I’ll walk or bike to work which takes me about 20 minutes. In fact, if I have to go anywhere, I think about my options and whether or not I need to drive to get to my destination, even if it’s just to pick up a pizza for date night with my fiance, the proof is in the picture below! 

Contact Information:

jahasia@ReconnectRochester.org

Instagram: @javatheurbangardener 

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How should we grow Rochester’s bike infrastructure? Let’s ask the data.

Guest blog by Nate August (Data Scientist & Graduate, University of Rochester) and Doug Kelley (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester)

The year 2022 could be a watershed for active transportation in the Rochester region. The City of Rochester is writing a new Active Transportation Plan to update and extend its existing Bicycle Master Plan (completed in 2011). Meanwhile, Monroe County is writing its first-ever Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Both documents will lay out a vision and set priorities to guide transportation policy for years or decades. Their recommendations will literally be made concrete in communities’ sidewalks, bike paths, bus stops, and roads. Smart planning can improve equity and sustainability in everybody’s transportation – and can be empowered by data-driven insights.

Sharrows in Rochester

This spring, our team of graduate students and faculty at the University of Rochester’s Goergen Institute for Data Science, in partnership with the City of Rochester, set out to make data-driven recommendations for one key enabler of active transportation, the City’s bike infrastructure. We drew on a recent scientific study of bike networks in 62 other cities around the world, coauthored by researchers at the University of Rochester and the IT University of Copenhagen. We selected 86 points of interest around the City and calculated many thousands of routes among them, each along existing bikeways and streets, then located the street segments that currently lack bike infrastructure but frequently are part of the calculated routes. Those are places where new infrastructure would carry the most bike traffic and could most quickly improve users’ experiences of Rochester’s bike network. Here are the ten segments most important for bike transportation in Rochester, according to our analysis:

    • Monroe Avenue between Culver Road and Howell Street
    • Elmwood Avenue between Mount Hope Avenue and S. Goodman Street
    • Driving Park Avenue between La Grange Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • Joseph Avenue between Cumberland Avenue and Norton Street
    • A connection between North Street and Central Park, either Davis and Scio Streets or Portland Avenue
    • State Street between Andrews Street and Smith Street
    • Smith Street between Lake Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • South Clinton Avenue between Gregory Street and East Broad Street
    • Stone Street between East Broad Street and East Main Street
    • Saint Paul Street between East Main Street and Andrews Street

Our data-driven recommendations agree well with intuition and ongoing community conversation. Many of these street segments are also among the ten most obvious gaps in Rochester’s bike network, according to Reconnect Rochester’s Mind the Gap campaign. Many were recommended for upgraded bike infrastructure in the Rochester 2034 blueprint for growth and development, adopted by City Council in 2019. When different people using different methods tackle the same problem and find similar solutions, it’s a good sign that those could be the right solutions for the community – great minds think alike!

To learn more about the results and analysis that led to our recommendations, check out the interactive map below. It shows the data-driven recommendations along with existing bike infrastructure and the points of interest. You can pan, zoom, and toggle the layers. Altogether, these new segments span just eight miles (13 km) – short enough to be built rapidly and at low cost. As the map shows, they would link disjointed parts of Rochester’s existing bike network and connect it to more neighborhoods, bringing transportation equity to more residents.

Once these ten key segments have bike-friendly infrastructure, further construction would bring further improvements, and we used the same sort of analysis to ask what should come next. The animation below shows what the Rochester bike network could look like as infrastructure is added in 12-mile increments up to 60 miles. According to our analysis, communities are best served by prioritizing dense connections in the City center along with selected arterial connections to outlying areas.

Suggested bike connections in Rochester

There’s more good news when we rate the impacts of these recommendations in terms of directness. If you’re biking from, say, the Public Market to the downtown library, the directness of your route is the ratio of the actual distance you pedal to the distance as the crow flies. A more direct route is quicker and more efficient. By averaging over all the routes among all the points of interest, the directness of a whole bike network can be calculated. The scientific study found, surprisingly, that building new infrastructure during the early part of a bike network’s development can actually make directness worse because new neighborhoods are at first connected only by tortuous routes. But the good news for Rochester is that our strong foundation of roughly 75 miles of existing protected bikeways, bike boulevards and bike paths allows us to achieve steadily increasing directness. Here, bike routes will tend to get straighter and more direct with each new infrastructure project, as long as projects are chosen sensibly.

Our analysis is all about connecting points of interest, so the results depend strongly on how those points are chosen. We started with the City of Rochester Commercial Corridor Business Data, published as part of the 2034 Plan, which tabulates 1800 locations. By looking for clusters of nearby places, we reduced that long list to 86 points of interest, which constitute parks, museums, convenience stores, schools, and other businesses. We checked to be sure that the points didn’t unfairly favor any of the City’s four quadrants or areas with higher median income. In fact, we repeated our analysis with different points of interest, chosen with a preference for serving underprivileged neighborhoods and combined the results for our final recommendations. We’ve worked hard to make recommendations that promote equity and serve all residents.

Of course, recommendations alone aren’t enough. Concrete improvements to Rochester’s bike network will require, well, concrete – as well as public will. You can help make these recommendations reality. Use this interactive map to mark assets, opportunities, and concerns that should be considered in the Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Respond to the community survey for Rochester’s Active Transportation Plan. Encourage your community leaders to prioritize bike and pedestrian infrastructure, especially when they think about big projects like ROC the Riverway and the Inner Loop North Transformation.

Kids ride on a bike path in Rochester

You can also dig deeper into our analysis by reading the full report or adapt our tools and methods to other communities by downloading our analysis code. A similar study of Monroe County would be invaluable and would be easier now that we’ve added much of Rochester’s bike infrastructure to OpenStreetMap.

With more data and analytical processing power available now than humankind has ever before known, our society is in a position to devise and execute truly excellent plans for active transportation networks. Let’s make the most of the opportunity.

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Bike Week 2022

The cycling season in Rochester continues with Bike Week 2022, spanning two consecutive weekends from May 13 to 22 and offering cycling events for all ages and levels of expertise.

Example of a Bike Week ride
The purpose is to celebrate biking in Rochester and expand the use of bikes as practical, daily transportation. With many people taking up biking during the pandemic, Bike Week welcomes new riders and demonstrates the great community and infrastructure available to cyclists in Rochester.
Bike Week is put together by Reconnect Rochester but is truly a grassroots effort in that each event is organized individually. Information for the rides is below, along with a specific contact for each ride.

Friday, May 13

7:45pm: Light Up the Night Ride (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride to kick off Bike Week begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 14

9:00am-2:00pm: Bike Sale (10 Flint Street)

R Community Bikes will have a good selection of ready-to-go bikes along with a huge selection of “project bikes” that need some TLC. They have no children’s bikes or 24″ bikes. Payment can be made by cash, PayPal or checks. Please note that this sale is at their Flint Street location, NOT their Hudson Ave location.

10:00am: George Eastman Bike Tour (900 East Avenue)

See Rochester in a new way. A nod to George Eastman’s own love of cycling, the George Eastman Bike Tour will take you to ten different locations related to the life and work of this pioneer of popular photography and famous Rochesterian. You will see buildings and sites that shaped Eastman’s life—or were in turn shaped by him. $25. Must register and pay beforehand to participate: eastman.org/biketours

Sunday, May 15

10:00am-11:30am: ROC Freedom Riders Kick Off Ride (East High School, 1801 E. Main Street)

Join ROC Freedom Riders for its 2022 season kick-off ride to support a new Black-owned fitness center founded by ROC Freedom Riders captain, Lakeisha Smith, owner of Inspired By Fitness. Meet at East High School parking lot for a ride around the neighborhood. This ride includes a tour of Inspired By Fitness and a fun warmup/cooldown activity facilitated by Lakeisha Smith. Contact: RocFreedomRiders@gmail.com

10:30am: Sunday Funday (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court Street)

Join Rochester Bicycle Time! for a leisurely cruise around our fine city during Bike Week. Explore fun hidden spots that will give you a different perspective on Rochester and possibly learn some history as well. Meetup at the park water fountain at 10:30am and rollout at 11am. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Monday, May 16

Nothing currently scheduled. Check back closer to this date for any updates!

Tuesday, May 17

7:30am-9:00am: Bike to Work Day Pit Stop, University of Rochester edition (Elmwood cycletrack, across from the main hospital entrance)

Our region’s largest employer is a wonderful bike destination! Situated along the Genesee River and near the Erie Canal, you’re sure to encounter some scenic spots along your route. The University of Rochester earned a silver “Bicycle Friendly University” award in 2018 and had Rochester’s most used bikeshare station during Pace’s tenure. To thank people cycling to the River and Medical campuses on May 17, they will have snacks to share in a safe manner. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with their staff and Reconnect Rochester volunteers. Contact: Tracey Austin, taustin7@parking.rochester.edu

6:00pm-8:30pm: On-Bike Smart Cycling Class, presented by Reconnect Rochester (Public Market, 280 N. Union St)

Many people like the idea of biking more, but don’t feel safe mixing with traffic. In this class, students will learn the rules of the road and proper roadway position. We’ll examine safe cycling techniques and ways to make cycling easier and more enjoyable. The class will incorporate classroom learning, parking lot maneuvering drills and a short group ride navigating different traffic scenarios together. Cost: $25 per person. Must register and pay beforehand to participate.

Wednesday, May 18

7:00pm: National Ride of Silence (Liberty Pole, Liberty Pole Way)

Join Black Girls Do Bike Rochester and Monroe County cyclists in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. This slow 8-mile ride with a police escort aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and government officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. Registration starts at 5:30pm. Ride will commence around 7pm after ceremony. Contact: Kecia McCullough BGDBRochNY@gmail.com

Thursday, May 19

6:45pm: Rochester Bicycle Time! (Parcel 5, 285 E. Main Street)

RBT’s mission is simple: All riders, regardless of skill level. They meet at Parcel 5 every Thursday around 6:30pm and start rolling at 7pm. Expect a relaxed cruise around the City with an improvised route. This ride is a great way to know how to get around by bike. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Friday, May 20

6:30am-10:00am Bike to Work Day pit stop (Union Street cycletrack at East Avenue)

If you’ve never tried biking to work, this is the day! Rochesterians are very fortunate to have an average 4.1-mile commute to work, which is about 25 minutes by bike at a casual pace. To thank people cycling to work on May 20th, Reconnect Rochester will have munchies to share and celebrate those who get to work on two wheels. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 21

MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Festival

The MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Criterium is back! This is the second race of the all new American Criterium Cup in the heart of beautiful downtown Rochester. Bring the family downtown for relentlessly high-paced racing on a short closed loop course that gives spectators plenty of access to the action! Grab a beer from the Rohrbach Beer Garden and grub from the array of Food Trucks! Details: rochestercrit.com

**Saturday, May 28** (postponed from 22nd)

10:00am-1:00pm Keeping It Classy Cycling Club’s Flower Pedal Populaire (Roundhouse Shelter, Genesee Valley Park)

Don your favorite outfit, decorate your bike, and pack up your picnic baskets! Meetup at the Genesee Valley Roundhouse shelter at 10am for coffee and a gracious welcome. Kickstands up at 11am for a short, leisurely group ride. Bring your mom and dad. Bring your Grammy and Grandpa. Bring the kids and dog! Just remember to keep it classy! Contact: Dan Slakes, danos.711@gmail.com

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Floshare: “EVening” the Playing Field

Guest blog by Bree-Ana Dukes, Floshare Program Manager at Mobility Development Operations & Board Member at Reconnect Rochester

According to the 2018 Transportation and Poverty in Monroe County commissioned by Reconnect Rochester, “most households (88%) in Monroe County have access to a vehicle (74% in Rochester). This leaves 12% of households in the county (35,000 households), and 26% of households in the city (22,000 households) without access to a vehicle,” about a third of all city of Rochester households.

Flower City Carshare (Floshare) is a partnership between Mobility Development Operations (MDO) and the City of Rochester and is the first electric vehicle (EV) car sharing program in New York. The carsharing program targets chronically economically distressed areas and neighborhoods where there are low rates of car ownership.

Happy Floshare Customers

“We had a BLAST with the car. My son told everyone everywhere we went that the car we were driving was ‘TOTALLY ELECTRIC MAN.’ Thanks again for helping me get this started, I cannot wait to rent it again.” (Rachael Boelens)

The lack of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in many of Rochester’s neighborhoods echoes the historical disenfranchisement of marginalized communities and the disparities that have resulted from centuries of disinvestment. Carsharing services alone cannot solve the systemic issues around transportation for the poorest segments of the City’s population, but community-controlled EV carsharing will add a new mobility option to the transportation landscape for those without access to a personal vehicle. Through intentional collaboration with community based organizations, the transportation sector, and social service agencies addressing these EVSE gaps, Floshare hopes to better connect residents to the city and surrounding areas.

Carsharing means community residents have access to a network of electric vehicles located in close proximity to them everyday of the year at any time of the day. This certainly won’t solve our transportation issues, but while funding is on the table we have to consider the lack of car ownership and how marginalized communities are able to benefit from the EV movement from an economic, social, and public health perspective. Much can be debated about the state of transportation within Monroe County, but the fact is that accessibility is not equal for those historically disenfranchised, specifically, for Black and Indigenous people of color.

Targeting EV Investment to the Disenfranchised

Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations are a huge topic of national conversation following the Biden-Harris Administration’s release of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Guidance. States will be responsible for allocating $5 billion toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure with the goal to “put the United States on a path to a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030 and ensure a convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable charging experience for all users.”

The Administration’s Justice 40 initiative commits to allocate at least 40% of all funding and investments to “disadvantaged communities”. This is an important distinction because history has shown that without intentional investment in marginalized communities, subpar or disinvestment will continue to widen the racial inequality gap. Some opponents to this commitment will cite the lack of EV ownership as a reason to not invest in marginalized communities, but that is precisely why it is important to do so. Arguments about whether certain communities deserve targeted investments are tired! It is this type of rhetoric that continually blocks BIPOC from opportunities to benefit from social and economic development and revitalization.

A conversation that would be more productive is one that acknowledges the root causes of “carless” homes as well as the inability to afford an EV as outcomes of systemic racism. Centuries of genocide, slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, redlining, and a host of other discrimanatory acts continue to plague our organizations and institutions of governance. So, we must never forget what’s ever present in the zeitgeist that makes commitments like Justice 40 necessary.

Sign Up for Floshare’s Expanding System in ROC

The Floshare program provides access to fully electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for a low cost rate of $5/hour or $40/day. The program has been beta testing since September 2021, with locations at the Rochester Public Market and St. Mary’s Campus and more locations coming soon! About two dozen residents have gone through orientation to test the vehicles and its technology, in preparation for a launch event this summer. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up by downloading the Miocar Networks app.

Charging Floshare Vehicle